On floor area ratios, excessive slope and a proposed committee

At the much anticipated Dec. 2 City Council session, individuals who

by chance happened to hear about the latest ordinance battle -- none

had been officially informed by the City Council -- came forward

because their homes would be adversely affected by the newest

proposed floor area ratio restrictions. There was no indication that

this proposed prohibition had been sufficiently disseminated to

homeowners throughout the Glendale area who would be affected by

these proposed changes.

The individuals who spoke against it expressed grave concerns that

as their family grew, under the proposed new FAR restriction, they

would be unable to add a room to the existing house to accommodate

that growth. They arrived with a petition signed by several local

residents who shared the same concerns. The restriction covers not

just hillside homes but also those on flat land, where new house size

has hardly been a controversial issue. Councilman Gus Gomez, upon

hearing that testimony, indicated he never considered the fact that

those proposed changes would have such adverse repercussions. It is

highly likely that if these proposed changes to the FAR had been

widely disseminated to those affected -- including homeowners on flat

lots -- as they should have been, a large mob would be on hand to

vehemently protest.

Another highly controversial prohibition that has been floated in

the past was recently shot down by the Planning Commission. However,

it is still hastily being pushed through the halls of [City Hall] by

groups like the Chevy Chase Estates Assn. It is a prohibition on

building on lots with average slope exceeding an arbitrary figure,

typically 50-55%. We find this a particularly peculiar suggestion

when fully two-thirds of all homes on the Glendale hillsides sit on

slopes that exceed this threshold, among them many of Glendale's

grandest, most exquisite homes.

Certainly there have been some aesthetically displeasing or

incompatible homes built on the hillsides that were slipped through

prior to the passing of the 1993 Hillside Ordinance. Yet it is a

mistake to overreact and now prohibit the few remaining vacant lot

owners from deriving any economic use from their lot; it is an unfair

transfer of culpability. Moreover, it is irrational to regard every

hillside lot owner as a greedy developer anxious to get the most bang

for the buck without regard to design and compatibility issues, as

this certainly is not true.

Finally, as Mr. Zavos indicated at the City Council meeting of

Sept. 30 and repeatedly thereafter, under the Supreme Court's Lucas

case, a complete prohibition without just compensation to the owner

would be deemed unconstitutional and considered a taking.

What we are ultimately trying to point out is that these proposals

have not been adequately vetted to a broad segment of the community,

and their implications have not been carefully considered. Given the

drastic nature of some of the proposed changes, we would urge the

city to take a more calculated, deliberate approach.

We suggest the council create a committee composed of two

representatives from the Homeowners Coordinating Council (one from a

hillside group and another from a flatlands group); two

representatives taken from the owners of vacant and currently legally

buildable hillside lots who have expressed concern over an outright

prohibition; two architects whose specialty is hillside development;

one landscape architect who deals with hillside development; a member

of the City Council; two members of the planning staff; and one

attorney versed in land-use law.

This committee would be charged with formulating amendments to the

Hillside Ordinance, which would ensure that houses built on hillside

lots are not oppressive and aesthetically displeasing yet meanwhile

protect the property rights of landowners. Such a committee would

ensure the diverse input of all groups affected, would subject any

proposal to the diverse interests represented -- thus ferreting out

any hidden implications in a given proposal -- and would have the

credibility of taking into consideration more than the narrow views

of a particular homeowners' association. Finally, any such serious

changes to the city code should not be passed through without

extensive deliberation and analysis.

We do not wish to despoil our hillside. Any open-minded individual

can drive through our hills, see houses that detract and houses that

add to a neighborhood, and conclude that what adds or detracts from a

neighborhood is not determined by steepness of slope or home size,

but rather by quality of design.




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